In a daring, difficult rescue that has captured the attention of the entire world, all 12 members and the coach of a Thai soccer team have been rescued from a cave. Though they are being carefully monitored for infections, all appear to be healthy and safe. This is incredible considering that they had been trapped for two weeks with few supplies, a dangerous lack of air, and in a place where rescue sometimes seemed impossible.
How it happened
The boys, aged 11 to 16, had been stuck inside Tham Luang Nang Non Cave in northern Thailand since June 23. They were on a hike led by their coach, Ekkapol Ake Chantawong, 25, after a soccer practice. But this activity turned disastrous when the rains arrived.
Heavy, seasonal rains are a regular part of the weather in Thailand at this time of year. During the rainy, or monsoon, season, it is common for it to rain heavily for days. This water flooded the tunnel while the boys were inside and blocked off any escape route.
Trapped deep inside
At first, there was no sign of the team and their coach. The only news was that they were last seen on June 23. And even when divers discovered them on July 2, the rescue mission was far from over.
Yes, they were able to bring them food, supplies, and air. But the Thai soccer team was approximately two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the cave entrance. Imagine trying to swim underwater, in pitch black darkness, for a distance over twice as long as the world's tallest building, the Burj Dubai, is high.
That's what the team and their rescuers faced.
An extreme mission
At first, organizers were split on how to save the boys. Because they could bring them food, some wondered about waiting until even October, when the monsoons were over and the water would leave the cave. But that was very risky. If the rains became too heavy, the boys might not survive even with food and air. So they choose to bring them out with divers.
Even for experts, this would not be easy. As rescue consultant Pat Moret told CNN on July 3: "It won't be anything like the diving that most people recognize. It will be diving in what is effectively muddy water, possibly fast-flowing, with no sense of direction. You can't tell what's up, down, sideways."
This fact was made clear on July 6 when a former sergeant named Saman Kunan died on the way back from bringing new supplies to the boys.
In the end, a team of skilled divers from Thailand and around the world came together to get the boys out once and for all. The divers would attach a boy to themselves, and carefully navigating the cave until they reached safety. In each case, the dive back to safety lasted for hours. The process began on Sunday, when the first four boys were rescued. Four more were rescued on Monday, and the final four plus their coach emerged Tuesday.
The family, friends, and classmates of the boys are all grateful and celebrating, as are millions of people following the story around the world.
"There's just a lot of happiness in the atmosphere right now," reported CBC's Briar Stewart from Thailand.
And it is a miraculous story of bravery, both by the divers and the boys, who stayed so calm while trapped. But it also a reminder of the dangers of exploring the wild at the wrong time of year.